Latoya Cantrell: New Orleans Elects First Female Mayor

Nov 19, 2017
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

New Orleans made history last night. For the first time ever, the city has elected a woman as mayor - LaToya Cantrell. But Cantrell says that there are other big numbers that matter more. NPR's Colin Dwyer reports.

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Nearly 300 years - that's how long the city's been around. And not once has it had a woman for a chief executive. That long streak ended unofficially last month when both LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet, a fellow Democrat, qualified for a runoff election. It was only a matter of whose name earned an entry in the history books. Well, Cantrell won that honor Saturday night with a commanding 60 percent of the vote. But in her victory speech at the New Orleans Jazz Market, she said the city has more important things to think about than just her place in history.

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LATOYA CANTRELL: This campaign did not start about self. It only started with and has been routed in the people of the city of New Orleans, which all of us...

DWYER: Before this election, Cantrell earned attention as a community activist with another kind of campaign - the quest to save the neighborhood of Broadmoor after Hurricane Katrina.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There is no Broadmoor. We're destroyed. It looked like a napalm bomb had been dropped on the area, and everything was dead.

DWYER: That's a member of the Broadmoor Improvement Association speaking in the nonprofit group's video history of the neighborhood posted on Facebook. Katrina battered Broadmoor. Cantrell led efforts to bring it back from the brink. In her victory speech Saturday night, the mayor-elect pledged to have every neighborhood in mind when she steps into office.

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CANTRELL: What I'm here to say to you tonight - we have spoken.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Yeah.

CANTRELL: The people of our city have spoken. And no one will be left out.

DWYER: Cantrell officially takes office in about six months when she takes over for current Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Colin Dwyer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.